January 8, 2010

The Insatiability

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 2:44 am


Apologists for the British Empire have often used the formula that it was acquired in “a fit of absent-mindedness”. That it just sort of happened opportunistically; power was there for the using and entered whatever vacuums it perceived, and then policy had to catch up to rationalize and sustain what impetuous aggression had wrested.
By now most critics of the Global War on Terror recognize the basic insanity of it, and even many of its supporters seem to shrug and justify it as a fact of life rather than anything having a rationale.
It’s clear that the power vacuums America perceives as being filled with terrorists are really vacuums it first imagined up for itself and then encouraged the terrorists to try to occupy. America and Israel generate terrorism through their own GWOT aggression.
Indeed America explicitly blasted open the Iraq vacuum in order to encourage terrorists to rush into it. The rationale was to “fight them there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here”. (Compare the German concept for the Battle of Verdun.) Obama has said the same thing for Afghanistan. Now everyone, terrorists and locals alike, expect that everyplace America goes must become a jihadist battlefield.
This, of course, is exactly what Osama bin Laden wanted. You’d think the US power structure would want the opposite, but in fact the corporate fascists and the jihadists have much in common seeking their nihilistic power goals. Above all both are committed to the spread of terror among all civilian populaces, domestic and foreign. What we have here is really a symbiotic terrorist superstructure, much like the so-called “two parties” in Washington.
Is the Permanent War in any American interest? It clearly serves no national interest and is against all interests. On the contrary, American economic, social, and political well-being all depend upon pulling back from the empire, greatly lowering our exposure and risk, getting rid of all dead weight and top-heavy elements, decentralizing, trending toward autarchy. But the insane drive of unsustainable power and consumption to keep feeding and intensifying itself will lead only to absolute destruction.
Look how phony and tediously repetitive are the rationales.
Vietnam: domino theory, commitment to the ally, “peace with honor”, most of all credibility.
Iraq: WMD, Saddam was behind 9/11, fighting terrorism in general, democracy, dominos, commitment to the ally, credibility.
Afghanistan: Get Al Qaeda, fight the Taliban, terrorism, dominos, Pakistan, Pakistan nukes, commitments (to “democracy”, to women), credibility.
In the end it’s clear that when all the other reasons fail or are proven bogus, the milquetoast warriors always need above all to feel credible in their own timid little minds, since they throw away all real credibility they ever had precisely on their crazed wars.
(Of course I don’t take seriously for a second “democracy” as ever having been a real reason for any imperial war. That was always just chucked in there to give jingoistic “liberals” an excuse to get on board.)
Let’s examine “terror” more closely. All the talk about how “war on terror” was the wrong term because terror is just a tactic, and you really make war on an interest or ideology, was beside the point. War on terror is exactly right, because “Global War on Terror” is simply a contentless, insatiable murder machine. It’s really just a tactic itself. It’s the Permanent War, “pursuit of power after power” (Arendt), war for its own sake, to feed a corporate maw which can never be satiated.
So it’s terminologically sound to call it a war on “terror”, precisely because terror is merely a tactic of the weak trying to fight back vs. America’s pointless endless bullying aggression, while the war on terror is simply this aggression seizing upon the resistance to itself to further justify itself. As we know, the main driver of terrorism is the American presence in these countries, so the self-feeding aggression creates the very rationale used to sanctify it.
Also, the very fact that terror can be plotted anywhere renders the rationale ideal for justifying theoretical war anywhere and everywhere, since there’s few places to attack where you can’t claim there are or can be “terrorists” there.
The term “terrorist” does lots of domestic propaganda work, as to this day an appalling proportion of people are slavish and stupid enough to believe in this “war on terror”, and that terrorism (as opposed to “terror” itself, which the terrorists have been completely successful in imposing; of course these are mostly domestic US government and media terrorists) is some real existential threat. (It’s sociologically and propagandistically similar to the fraudulent 80s scares over street crime, “super-predators” and such. I bet a lot of the same academics of fear are doing this same propaganda work today.)
Domestic fear and hate, creeping totalitarianism – with these we’re getting to some of the “real” reasons for the Permanent War.
The partially real reasons for the GWOT were obvious from the marketing leading up to the Iraq assault. It was a war for oil, and it was a textbook example of launching a foreign adventure to distract from domestic issues, in this case the snowballing looting of the country. It’s very true, they did want the oil and they did want to distract.
And, as Naomi Klein described so wrenchingly in Shock Doctrine, they also wanted to achieve the corporatist “blank slate” to facilitate the complete subjugation and looting of the country way beyond just the oil. And they’ve tried for years to replicate this operation in Afghanistan.
But these, while pieces of the puzzle, still don’t satisfy fully, especially since the plundering of Iraq was largely a bust, with even the American-affiliated multinationals getting aced out of most of the oil. Nor does any of this look promising in Afghanistan.
When I’ve tried to explain Afghanistan in peak oil terms, that they want to control the routing of natural gas pipelines and whatnot, I felt silly trying to offer that as a main explanation. In Afghanistan fossil fuels and corporatist plunder are parts of the puzzle, but just small ones. Fossil fuel, not enough to be worth the effort even under our deranged circumstances, for looting not enough there there. There’s no objective correlative.
(Indeed, we should look at Greenspan’s admission that Iraq was a war for oil in a new light. By now TPTB would probably rather it could be seen as even a war for oil, now that so-called “American” companies got so little a draw from the well.)  
No, here we have to go back to historical irrationalism. Expansion for expansion’s sake, power for power’s sake, greed for greed’s sake, “growth” for growth’s sake. The Permanent War is for its own sake, each step only intended to provide the staging point for the next step, and all of it justified by some obviously bogus rationale.

Degree being vizarded,
The unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask.
The heavens themselves, the planets and this centre
Observe degree, priority and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office and custom, in all line of order;
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
Amidst the other; whose medicinable eye
Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
And posts, like the commandment of a king,
Sans cheque to good and bad: but when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander,
What plagues and what portents! what mutiny!
What raging of the sea! shaking of earth!
Commotion in the winds! frights, changes, horrors,
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
The unity and married calm of states
Quite from their fixure! O, when degree is shaked,
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
Then enterprise is sick! How could communities,
Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows! each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
And make a sop of all this solid globe:
Strength should be lord of imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead:
Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong,
Between whose endless jar justice resides,
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.

Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida Act 1, scene 3.


  1. I would like to offer that in what makes the entire War enterprise so damnably difficult to characterize adequately is that it is made up of components that are not mutually exclusive. For example, while all of these mad WOT escapades can indeed ultimately be about…

    “Expansion for expansion’s sake, power for power’s sake, greed for greed’s sake, “growth” for growth’s sake. The Permanent War is for its own sake”

    there also exists a powerfully propulsive force that has its root in base greed and criminality. For example, the expansion in Afghanistan seems, at least to this onlooker, largely about co-opting the heroin trade.

    Comment by Edwardo — January 8, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  2. Sure, there are plenty of proximate causes and opportunisms at each stage.

    I just don’t think any one of them is the “real” motor of the whole infernal machine, other than power itself.

    Comment by Russ — January 8, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  3. […] (I’ve written some stuff about this war’s “credibility” before, for example here, here, and here.)   One of my favorite passages of war commentary is this gem from McChrystal, who […]

    Pingback by The Company You Keep « Volatility — April 10, 2010 @ 2:15 am

  4. […] on the street, but that only the US’s imperial aggression itself drives this will to fight. As I’ve previously written, the Global War on Terror, really a corporate looting project, counts on riling up enough […]

    Pingback by Transparency vs. Kleptocracy (BP, oil spills, Wikileaks) « Volatility — May 24, 2010 @ 7:41 am

  5. How ironic that you cite “Troilus and Cressida” on this blog…
    No comment, you already know what I mean ; I don’t need to spell it out. Suffice it to say that Shakespeare was an unapolegetic royalist, and in all probability, a closet Catholic (which means that being a practicing Catholic entailed ENORMOUS RISK OF PERSECUTION in his time).
    Expostulating on from Galbraith I will say that… the technological mess necessitates MAXIMUM PLANNING, which depends on MAXIMUM CONTROL. Should that surprise us ?
    Get rid of ALL RISK EVERYWHERE, because it screws up the planned economy.
    (Get rid of death, too, while we’re at it.)
    The planned economy leads to a totalitarian exercise of power EVERYWHERE ON THE GLOBE.
    The Enlightenment blueprint has always smacked of totalitarianism. Logical because it reposes on another totalitarianism : the Paulinian project for the universal body of Christ “in Christ there is no East nor West, etc.
    I am pretty sure that reading Tocqueville will confirm this for me too. Stay tuned… 😉
    And think about the last “Dune” books, when Herbert sinks his teeth into decadence : the true sign of a decadent society is the incapacity of its members to be surprised at anything, and their terminal cynicism. I say that we score 10/10 on that one, these days.
    Is the credibility mantra a substitute for so much rampant LOSS OF FAITH ??
    And why must there be ONE cause for anything so complex as the Beowulf warrior complex in our culture ?
    There must be several INTERACTING forces at work.
    And never forget… the consumer society is based on the mantra that “MORE (you fill in the OBJECT) is ALWAYS BETTER.”

    Comment by Debra — August 8, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

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